It is much darker in the alley than I thought it would be. It forces me to slow my pursuit for safety’s sake. I really don’t want to face plant into the side of a dumpster.
The screams are shrieks now and I easily follow them across the street and into an abandoned dress shop. Moon light filters through the filthy windows at the front. There is just enough to get an impression of what is in the room; shelving on the left and a fitting stage to the right.
Grunts and slaps echo from the back of the building. Sounds of a struggle. Was that a growl?
Lying in the light from the doorway is a broken two by four post. I pick up the makeshift weapon and swiftly move to the next room. I curse myself for forgetting to return the taser to my purse after it was recharged.
Eu de urine and wet drywall smother my nose. I notice a whimpering dark lump in the corner, that must be the victimized woman. My attention immediately swings to the shady ball of arms and legs that struggle in the center of the room.
My eyes are mostly adjusted to the darkness and I get close enough to see that the man on top of the heap is not Gerard. It doesn’t seem to be going well for my friend.
Keeping quiet, although I doubt either one is paying attention, I sneak up behind the attacker. His hands are wrapped tightly around Gerard’s neck. Squeezing the life from him.
Without hesitation, I lift the wood club high over my head and bring it down with all the force my small body is able. The club bounces off his skull with a sickening loud crack that echoes through the room. The next second my hands are aching and on fire from the reverberation. It was a solid hit, the man goes limp.
Gerard pries the hands from around his neck and takes in deep gulps of air. I help him shove the odoriferous man off to the side.
The asshole is still breathing, rattled breaths that happen only when you’re knocked unconscious. It’s disturbing and a comfort at the same time. I really didn’t want to kill someone two nights in a row.
I remember the woman in the corner and turn to ask about her well-being, but she is gone. Ran off sometime during the fight.
“Are you alright, Gerard? Do I need to call an ambulance?” I ask. He sits next to the man and catches his breath, “No. I’m fine.”
He stands and collects wire that has already been stripped from inside the walls. Quicker than a boy scout, he ties the hands and feet of the attacker and drags him to the front of the store where there is moonlight.
I stop and study the stranger’s pale, sneering face. His teeth are jagged and predatory. Scary as hell even while unconscious. I look for a clue as to how and why this man became someone who could do such evil acts. Why was he attacking the woman? Was he a wronged pimp? Mugger? Rapist? Or, perhaps just a sinister, sick person out to hurt another?
Gerard interrupts my troubled thoughts, “Are you alright Pennelope?” I nod. Not sure if it’s true or not. He takes my hand and gently pulls me towards the street. “I can report the attack anonymously from the corner payphone. Why don’t you sit on the bus bench and rest.” I nod again numbly, as I convince myself the trembling is due to the bitter cold wind.
Somehow I stay awake while waiting on Gerard. It is so late, so cold. There are quite a few neck wrenching, head flops. Gerard helps me up and continues to hold my hand. His skin is insanely warm compared to mine.
We don’t speak and I am thankful for it. My mind needs time to compartmentalize all that has happened.
Gerard leads me up a few blocks, and into a nice brownstone home I assume is his. I’m still a bit shaken but I’ve calmed down enough to notice my surroundings.
I like his house, it’s warm and inviting. I smile at the strong aroma of coffee and books. We hang our coats and slip off wet shoes. It’s been quiet too long and it now feels strange to talk. I try to think of something to say that isn’t lame or crazy.
When he sits and pats the worn leather sofa, silently asking me to sit with him. I do.
“How are you holding up?” He asks, breaking our reticence. He puts his arm around my shoulders and hugs me into his side. Tucking my feet up and snuggling in close, I breath in his warm manly smell. Let my eyes slide shut. Talking is so overrated.
“Pennelope?” He prods again. “I’m tired.” I answer with a slur; half asleep. I enjoy listening to his heartbeat. It’s still fast. Maybe he was hurt more than I realized. A grandfather clock in the hall chimes the hour and I wake enough to ask, “Are you sure you are alright?”
“Yes of course. When I saw you enter that room…Pennelope, I have never been so scared.” He hugs me tight a few more seconds then loosens his hold to sternly ask, “What were you thinking? You could have been gravely injured, or worse!”
“Do I seem like the kind of person that would let anyone run off into danger alone?…I knew I could help. I did too, he almost had you. I whacked him just in time…Your welcome.”
He sighs, exasperation heavy in his tone, “I had the altercation completely under control. Before you walked in and frightened me witless, I was in control.
I’m roused enough to laugh at his stereotypical man answer. “So you were immobilizing his hands with your throat, was that the trick? I’ll have to try that next time.” I pat his chest. Riling him up is fun.
“There’s no next time, I forbid you to ever be in danger again. It is forbidden now.” He smiles and I have to laugh. “Sure, Gerard. If you say so. Now leave me be, I’m sleepy…” I snuggle into him, feeling safe.
Being an intelligent man, his only answer is to pull me into his arms and run a hand over my curls. It is heaven. Before I drift off I hear him whisper, “Thank you, Pennelope.”
MORE TO COME…